The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 29           August 25, 2003  
Calero joins Atlanta
driver’s license protest
ATLANTA—“From the point of view of someone fighting against deportations, in my own case and those of many others, it’s important to see the fight for the right of immigrants to have a driver’s license as one of many struggles working people in the United States are participating in,” said Róger Calero at a meeting of over 100 people here July 22. The gathering had been called by Georgians for Safer Roads, an organization that campaigns for driver’s licenses for undocumented workers. It was held at the offices of the Latin American Association in Atlanta.

The meeting was called to protest a bill Georgia’s governor Sonny Perdue signed into law May 31. The legislation prohibits immigrants in the state from buying a vehicle, or renewing license plates for one they already own, without having a valid Georgia driver’s license.

“I have lived in Georgia for seven years. I own a small construction business and I’m very interested in how this law is going to affect me,” Arturo Castejón, a Mexican immigrant, told the gathering. “I own three pick-up trucks and I won’t be able to keep using them for my job.”

Thousands of people have been affected in a similar fashion since the law went into effect, with many opting to move to other states as a result.

Crews of construction workers, electricians, concrete workers, contractors, and others came from work to the 11:00 a.m. meeting to discuss the problem, after an announcement that the gathering was taking place was broadcast on Spanish-language radio.

Most people there called for actions to demand that the law be repealed, including a work stoppage and a march. A Direct Action committee was formed to organize such mobilizations. Calero joined the discussion with workers on the importance of fighting to win and supporting other struggles. He pointed to a UNITE organizer present and encouraged everyone there to back the efforts of workers to organize unions.

Three people who took part in the driver’s license meeting came to a public event next evening featuring Calero. The panel of speakers included James Harris of the Socialist Workers Party and Adelina Nicholls, vice president of the Coordinating Council of Latino Community Leaders of Atlanta (Coordinadora). Nicholls is a local leader of the driver’s license struggle.

“Coordinadora is organizing the first Latino Rights Forum for September 28,” Nicholls announced. Among the workshops is one on driver’s licenses. The conference will be on the same weekend that the buses for the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will set off from Atlanta and join with riders from nine other U.S. cities headed toward Washington to focus attention on struggles of immigrant workers against discrimination on the job and their right to live in the United States.

Calero pointed out that because attacks on immigrants are at the spear point of the ruling class offensive, “defense of the rights of immigrant workers—opposition to ‘no match’ Social Security letters, repealing of laws such as those restricting immigrants from obtaining driver’s licences or renewing car registration, ending factory raids and deportations—is a question for the entire labor movement.” Organizing to press for these demands, as the protest meeting the day before set out to do, can increase the self-confidence and unity of working people. “It makes us stronger,” Calero said.

Harris thanked everyone for coming to the meeting, on behalf of Calero’s party, the SWP, and for joining the struggle that pushed back the government in its attempt to deport Calero.

The 29 people in attendance at the July 23 event contributed $559 towards the expenses of Calero’s tour and to help the Political Rights Defense Fund, which helped initiate the Róger Calero Defense Committee, replenish its war chest for similar fights in the future.

Calero was interviewed by WCCD, a Spanish radio news program, and the Spanish-language newspapers Nuestro Semanario and Mundo Hispánico. The latter is the most widely distributed Latino newspaper in Georgia. He was also interviewed on the English-language radio station WRFG.
Related article:
‘Journalist wins antideportation fight’  
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